Fla. largest insurer approves 7 percent rate hike

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SARASOTA---For the 5th straight year, Citizens Insurance policy holders will see their rates go up.  The state-run property insurance provider approving a 7% average increase statewide -- move has many homeowners upset.

"I think its gotten very unfair for the home owner," said Christina Shamsey.

She is one of the 1.26 million people statewide who has Citizens Property Insurance. And she says the cost of coverage has gotten out of hand.

"It's been increasing every years and this past year its gotten to the point where its exuberant. Its gone up at lease $2,600 in one year," added Shamsey.

After the last increase, Shamsey says her family was paying more than $6,000 for insurance. But the Citizens isn't stopping there. Their board voting Wednesday to approve another rate increase for 2014 policies.

"Older homes that have not been upgraded or updated to current building standards usually are seeing the highest rate increase, " said insurance agent Florence Conlan.

Statewide, Citizens customers will see a 7% average increase.  In Sarasota and Manatee counties, rates will go up 7.7%.  And those with high sinkhole risk could see an increase upwards of 10%. In addition the company is also lowering their coverage cap.

"In other words nobody with a home valued over $700,000 for replacement cost will be able to obtain insurance with Citizens," said Conlan.

Conlan also says the changes will put many high end waterfront property owners between a rock and a hard place.  "They're going to have to find a standard admitted insurance carrier or if there not eligible for a standard carrier they're going to have to go into the surplus industry which means higher cost and higher fees." 

But, for residents like Shamsey, that's not an option. "We've really decided we are better off just dropping it because its gotten way out of line. You budget certain things and its gotten very unfair." 

In last five years Citizens rates have risen about 43 percent.  Some are also concerned the rate increase will hurt the real estate market recovery.